Olly

Journal of Olly Headey. Co-founder & CTO at FreeAgent.

Boosting the Signal

I had a day “out of the office” yesterday (not to be confused with the previous 360 consecutive days out of the physical office since March 13, 2020). I just had a day off, which shouldn’t be a particularly big deal. If anything urgent happened I would have received a phone call, otherwise I should easily be able to catch up with things on my return. I filter my email so it’s a pleasant place these days, even after a few days without checking. Slack, on the other hand, is a complete disaster zone.

In my head I have long since departed all channels that I don’t need to be in, and I only inhabit a few high-value, high signal-to-noise ratio ones. In reality, I have one day off and I’m snow-blinded by dozens of attention-seeking hashtags and red dots which results in a laborious routine of submissively channel-clicking and back-scrolling through history, desperately scanning for signs of value among a brain-frying array of links, mentions and updates. By the time I get to the end of it all I’ve forgotten most of it and bookmarked a few things which I will forget about and never return to until it’s far too late. Even if I do remember, I will be unlikely to find those few nuggets of gold that I’m sure I came across because I can’t quite make the search show me what I want. It’s a context-switching nightmare. Is this progress? Is this effective collaboration and communication? Is this “work happening”? I recommend pressing Shift-Esc and moving on. If it’s that important, someone will let you know.

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How I implemented custom domain support with automatic TLS certs for my SaaS app

Managing hosting and TLS certificates for customer-specified domains can be a challenge. In this article I explain how I solved this, with relative ease, for blogline.co.

https://unsplash.com/photos/DoWZMPZ-M9s

When I first started working on Blogline (a fast, minimalist blogging platform), I had only planned to use it for my own blogs. Like most app developers (certainly those using Rails), I originally hosted it on Heroku, which has decent support for TLS if you’re working with only a handful of known domains. Once I’d finished the early prototype, I decided it might be fun to turn it into a SaaS product that would allow customers to create a blog on their own domain in seconds. This didn’t sound complicated technically – the main problem was how to manage TLS certificates.

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Music in 2020

I thought about writing a “2020 in Review” article that was just a blank page, but rather than being facetious I thought I’d write about some of the music I listened to instead.

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The problem with acronyms

Reducing the use of unnecessary acronyms in your business will increase productivity and employee happiness, and reduce cynicism as you grow. Here’s how.

Confusing vernacular isn’t a new thing to me, but I’ve noticed that an acronym[1] population steadily increases as projects, or entire companies, expand. I can sort of understand. When a company is bigger, there are more people and more things going on. More projects, more meetings, more presentations. Typing “Engaged User Growth Hack” becomes tedious the 14th time you write it in your proposal, so someone initialises it (EUGH) the first time and uses the acronym there on in. Once the document is circulated, it’s inevitable that at some point – it might take a few meetings, but eventually – it becomes common parlance. “How is the EUGH rate looking this week, Ted?”

One of the many problems you’re going to encounter in a growing business is a lack of clarity among staff. A successful business is one where employees understand things, and when they don’t it’s okay because they know where to go to find the information required to understand things.

Whether you’re a new hire reviewing an onboarding guide on your first day, or a seasoned employee reading the latest project proposal, you’re probably going to be faced with a sea of acronyms. The more there are, the more confused you’ll be. This is bad for morale and bad for business, so it’s your job as a leader in an organisation to spare everyone from this misery by eliminating acronyms as much as possible in your organisation. Here are my top tips.

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The Ascension

Despite liking the idea of liking Sufjan Stevens, the reality of listening to one of his albums has never lived up to expectations for me. I felt the same way about Nick Drake, Bright Eyes and countless other well regarded singer-songwriters. The Ascension is different. I sort of always have been but I’m really in the mood for spaced-out dreamgaze right now. Coronavirus continues to circulate and dominate our lives, autumn broods outside while we hunker, locked down, inside our houses.
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The Time We Have

We should think more intentionally about what we do with our time. Where we work. Who we work with. Who we call, text or Zoom. What we read, watch or listen to. What we give back. This video from Ze Frank puts perspective on it. Time is short. Use it wisely.

👋 Farewell, CodeClan

Around five and a half years ago I was asked by Polly if I would join a supervisory group who were tasked with understanding the feasibility of creating a digital skills academy for the software industry in Scotland. The idea was that this academy would train workers in software development over a 16 week course, then help them find jobs within the industry. The ultimate goal of this initiative was to help to bridge the increasing digital skills gap we were seeing in Scotland. Understandably, there were people who thought this couldn’t be done. Two of the biggest concerns were that the revenue model would never work and, perhaps more worryingly, that it wasn’t possible to teach someone to code from scratch in 16 weeks. We went ahead and did it anyway.

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The Flaming Lips – American Head

Many (21!) years ago, when I was in the mood for relaxing to some spaced-out dream rock I’d listen to Spiritualized or The Soft Bulletin by far out American odd-band, The Flaming Lips. They were wonderful albums. The follow up to The Soft Bulletin was Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, which was the band’s big commercial success, although for me it wasn’t quite up there with Bulletin. From these giddy, world conquering heights it all seemed to tumble downhill for them rather quickly and despite releasing 12 albums since, none of them ever hit the mark for me (or the professional critics).
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